Robert Persons's Precarious Correspondence
The Jesuit mission to England during the reign of Elizabeth depended a great deal on written correspondence with Rome and other missionaries “in the field.” As the superior of the mission, Robert Persons wrote frequently and sometimes voluminously to his colleagues and associates, as well as to interested lay people and political figures. This article considers the effect of the urgency and the unpredictability of his correspondence. He was often on the run, so letters could go astray, be intercepted or delayed. Letters took two to three weeks to reach Rome, and generally crossed each other, so that policy discussion was subject to a degree of guess-work and anticipation. With the capture and execution of Campion, Persons’s flight to France, the vicissitudes of Scottish and French politics (which crucially affected the fortunes of the English Catholics), and the growth of factionalism within the exile community, ignorance or misunderstanding could play a significant role in determining strategy and forming attitudes. Our own interpretation of Elizabethan Catholicism has also been affected by the loss of much of this correspondence at the suppression of the Society.
Robert Persons , Claudio Acquaviva , Correspondence , Venerable English College, Rome
Victor Houliston, 'Robert Persons's Precarious Correspondence', Journal of Jesuit Studies 1 (2014): 542-557